Protesters enter Enbridge property and force the closure of the Straits pipeline

A group protesting the continued operation of Canadian oil transportation giant Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac posted videos on social media on Tuesday showing its members entering Enbridge property and closing a shutoff valve emergency to temporarily stop the controversial petroleum and natural gas liquids from the pipeline flows.

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy denounced the action, saying it was illegal and put protesters and others at risk. Members of the protest group contacted Enbridge to let the company know what they were set to do on Tuesday, and Duffy said Enbridge staff had shut off pipeline flows from its control center , “Out of prudence to protect communities, first responders and protesters.”

Resist Line 3 Media Collective, a grassroots group that opposed the construction of this Enbridge pipeline connecting western Canada to Superior, Wisconsin – and whose members were arrested by the hundreds during the line’s protests – pointed out Tuesday’s action in Michigan on the group’s social media platforms. . A spokesperson for the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Michigan protest was organized by “empowered people,” adding: “The action does not concern us directly; we just hope to amplify it ”.

According to a press release from Resist Line 3, a “Michigan Water Protector” shut off the shut-off valve on the 68-year-old Line 5 pipeline “in accordance with Governor Whitmer’s order.” Duffy said the valve closure occurred on a segment of the Lower Peninsula pipeline in rural Tuscola County near Vassar.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced last November that she would revoke Enbridge’s 1954 state easement to use the lake bottom for its pipelines, citing “Enbridge’s persistent and incurable violations of the terms and conditions of the easement ”and the potential dangers of an oil spill to Michigan’s environment and economy.

In May, Enbridge continued to operate Line 5 in defiance of Whitmer’s shutdown deadline, declaring publicly and in court that Michigan did not have the legal authority to regulate interstate oil and gas pipelines. Michigan is seeking to send the federal case back to Michigan courts.

Earlier this month, the Canadian government invoked a 1977 pipeline treaty with the United States, seeking to halt U.S. District Court proceedings over a possible Line 5 closure and calling for bilateral negotiations between the two countries to resolve any dispute.

A Release Line 3 Twitter post quoted the valve turner as saying, “I know my life is in danger from the risk of a spill and contributions to climate change.”

“Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our lives, and these actions are taken out of necessity and in self-defense,” the masked valve turner said in a statement posted on Facebook Live, before entering the property and closing. the valve.

Duffy denounced the action in a statement.

“We respect the right of others to express their views on the energy we all use, but today’s pipeline tampering incident involving Enbridge was not a legal protest. It was a criminal activity that put people and the environment at risk, ”he said.

“The steps taken to illegally encroach on our facility in Michigan and attempt to tamper with energy infrastructure were reckless and dangerous. The groups involved in today’s incident claim to protect the environment, but they are doing the opposite and put the safety of people at risk – including themselves, first responders and neighboring communities and landowners.

“We take this very seriously and will support the prosecution of everyone involved.”

The protesters seemed to know they would have time to commit the act. A Facebook Live broadcast of the action lasted an hour, with a small crowd holding signs and cheering for the closing as rock band Only Lucky Once performed just outside the fence on an electric guitar and amplifier. The valve turner walked through a gap at the bottom of a locked door inside the pumping station, picking up large wrenches which he then used to manually close an emergency shut-off valve – a laborious process taking more than half an hour. The fences featured a sign that read “No Entry”, “High Pressure Oil Piping” and “High Voltage” by Enbridge.

No Enbridge employees or security are seen throughout the video, which was also posted on Resist Line 3 Group Instagram account. The incident raises questions about the monitoring of the pipeline and its reported safety system with built-in redundancies and constant monitoring, as there was no visible response to the act observed during the incident from a time.

Enbridge does not anticipate any impact on oil and gas deliveries to customers of the Temporary Line 5 shutdown, and the pipeline is back on stream, Duffy said.

Line 5 carries 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day eastward across the Upper Peninsula, splitting into two submarine pipelines through the straits, before returning to a single transmission pipeline across the Lower Peninsula extending south to Sarnia, Ontario.

The pipeline, and in particular its submarine section of more than 4 miles in the straits, has been a source of contention for years.

Enbridge was responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history – a major leak on one of its major oil lines near Marshall in July 2010. This spill contaminated over 38 miles of the Kalamazoo River and took four years and over $ 1 billion to clean up. Enbridge agreed in 2016 to a $ 177 million settlement with the United States Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency, including $ 62 million in penalties, for the Marshall spill and a 2010 spill on another of its pipelines in Romeoville, Illinois.

A similar spill on Line 5 in the Straits would devastate Great Lakes riparian communities and Michigan’s economy, critics of the pipeline have long argued. Enbridge officials responded that Line 5 is safe, and US interstate pipeline regulators have agreed.

Contact Keith Matheny: 313-222-5021 or [email protected]


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